People out of Place: Globalization, Human Rights, and the Citizenship Gap

By Alison Brysk; Gershon Shafir | Go to book overview
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9

Children across Borders

Patrimony, Property, or Persons?

ALISON BRYSK

Despite the age of universal citizenship, there is one group of billions of people who do not have full citizenship in any society in the world. Children are a rapidly growing population with a history of special "private" status in states, burgeoning universal rights claims, and vastly increased mobility. Millions of these children are "out of place": doubly displaced from family and state in sweatshops, refugee camps, bordellos, and orphanages. Children across borders are often invisible, or treated as permanent exceptions to wider social processes. The movement of children across borders and state responses to their movement reveal important characteristics of the citizenship gap between international rights and global realities.

While previous chapters have focused on the competing global dynamics of production and institutionalization that shift the meaning and reach of citizenship, this chapter seeks to reemphasize the role of norms and identity. Children are an important test case, because children are a universal group whose primary social function is to reproduce identity. The patrimonial norms that govern children's lives permeate and undermine the historical tradition of citizenship in a way that shows its long-standing limitations. But at the same time, all forms of citizenship are increasingly challenged by global markets' norm of commodification and the human rights norm of universal personhood. Thus, children out of place are caught in a nexus of patchwork patrimonial citizenship, globalizing relations of production, and a nascent rights regime.

This chapter examines the special characteristics of children's migration, with an emphasis on transnational adoption, as a form of migration unique to children and a site where globalization, rights, and identities collide. After an overview of the argument, the next section discusses children's partial citizenship, while the following section describes the emerging international regime of children's rights. The chapter then considers the overall patterns of children's migration, followed by a more detailed analysis of transnational adoption.

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